FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
SPIRITUAL WARFARE AND SUFFERING
April 25, 2016
Today’s reading: 1 Peter 5:5-14
Peter gives important advice to the community, after giving advice to the elders, the presbyters. What Peter says in the passage today is for all the flock, but especially to those who care for the flock, who are today’s servant leaders. Authentic servant leaders face two basic realities: one, they engage in spiritual warfare, and two, they will undergo suffering.
Authentic servant leaders engage in spiritual warfare and thus are assaulted by the enemy. This is because they lead in offense and defense. They lead the assault on the kingdom of darkness, and they protect and care for the flock of God. The enemy will thus seek to bring them down in order to bring down God’s people. “Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (v.8b).
Given this dangerous situation for God’s people, what is the servant leader to do? First, he (and of course everyone else) is to “be sober and vigilant.” (v.8a). He must keep an eye on the flock. He must be watchful. He must be proactive and not just reactive. Second, the servant leader is to actively resist the encroachments of the enemy. “Resist him” (v.9a).
As the enemy will assault authentic servant leaders, they will inevitably undergo suffering. But suffering, as with the suffering of Jesus, can and often will redound to the good. It is part of God’s plan. It is a manifestation of the authentic gospel, which is that of the cross.
So what is the authentic servant leader’s proper posture? First, in the midst of suffering, he is to remain “steadfast in faith” (v.9b). Many servants and leaders give in or give up when great suffering comes. On the contrary, the authentic servant leader endures and perseveres, and even rejoices for the privilege of suffering a bit of what his Master suffered. Since the authentic gospel is that of the cross, the servant leader perseveres, “knowing that (his) fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” (v.8c). Only for authentic servant leaders, the suffering is more intense.
Second, the authentic servant leader can persevere through suffering because he knows that God will sustain him, and in the end, he will enter into eternal glory. “The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.” (v.10). God’s grace is more than enough for him. He keeps his eyes on the prize, the eternal crown of glory. He rests in God’s merciful care. “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” (v.7).
Suffering, aside from many other blessings it brings to a person, especially a servant leader, provides the added benefit of keeping the servant leader humble. One great danger for a servant leader is pride, which happens when he looks more to being a leader than being a servant. So suffering reminds him of his weakness, of his failings, of being nothing apart from the grace and mercy of God, of never hoping to defeat the enemy apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. When he is humble, when he has been brought low, that is when God can truly use him. “And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (v.5b-6).
A note for the brethren under a servant leader and to those leaders of “lesser rank” under “upper” leaders: “you younger members, be subject to the presbyters.” (v.5a). To make things work, for unity and peace in the body, for effective evangelization, the elders must be respected and submitted to. There must be obedience and not dissent or even rebellion.
In all the above, everyone, especially the servant leaders, should always look to THE Servant Leader, who is Jesus. “To him be dominion forever. Amen.” (v.11).
“Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” (v.14b).
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